The Secret Lives of House Plants

I’m certainly not a green thumb, but I am a plant person. In our very sunny apartment my houseplants are the happiest they have ever been. I have a continuously blooming African violet that astonishes me after years of being flowerless. I have a rapidly spindling ivy that is the first I’ve kept alive since I was a teenager and I have a peace lily that I brought back to full size after being down to only one leaf at a very bad point.  All in all if you walked into my house you would think they had it pretty good.

Thank heavens plants can’t talk. Ohhhh the stories of neglect and disrespect they could tell you. All the times I’ve walked by them day after day after day watching them lying fully collapsed from thirst. All the times we’ve traveled and I’ve simply forgotten to schedule a friend to come by for the midweek watering.

Unlike children or pets, one can neglect plants, push them off until tomorrow morning or then until later that day and then suddenly a week has gone by. But like children and pets, plants have the capacity to offer wonderful benefits to a household when they are doing well. I love to come home to my plants and see them look vibrant and healthy. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’ve kept something alive.

But when plants struggle they do add the element of struggle to your household. I’ve been trying to save a succulent for five months now and I finally laid it to rest in our compost last week. As soon as it was out of the house I felt better. I just couldn’t handle that message of FAILURE, DEATH, ILLNESS that the little fledgling plant kept suggesting every time I walked by.

I used to say that my plants only did well when I was doing well, until my sister corrected me and said that when I was doing well I watered my plants and when I wasn’t I didn’t water them. She took all the energetics out of my esoteric theory, but there is truth in both perspectives. There are times that my plants begin to wither because of a lack of preventive care and extra nourishing that I am only capable of when I am well. There are also times when I get stressed and overwhelmed and just ignore household chores all together.

But there can be a very powerful reversal of responsibility. Last week I got a spell of early spring-cleaning fever and dusted, watered and deadheaded all the plants in the house. By the next morning the house was alive with buoyant, excited plant life and it was contagious. It is hard to feel sluggish and exhausted next to the spider plant’s brilliant green shoots reaching with new fervor towards the sun.

Image credit: foottoo / 123RF Stock Photo

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